Classification of Sins as Veniel/Mortal

Does anyone know how and when the church came about classifying sin? To my knowledge, and I certainly may be wrong as I’m not ascripture scholar, this is not mentioned in scripture. Thnaks in advance for the info.

Actually, the Bible does make that distinction. Read I John 5:16-17

If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Everything the Church teaches can be referenced by Scripture.

What is the sin that leads to death, are you refering to the 7 deadly sins?

I just read all of 1 John 5 and taken in context with the entire chapter I don’t see those 2 verses as the basis for the a classification.

Catechism of the Catholic Church:

IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin

1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. the distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,129 became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.
Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery… But when the sinner’s will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.130

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother."132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. the promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. "Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness."134

Compendium of the Catechism issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. How are sins distinguished according to their gravity?


A distinction is made between mortal and venial sin.

  1. When does one commit a mortal sin?


One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?


One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

There are many things which are not explicit in Scripture but implicit. Furthermore there are things which are found in the ‘oral tradition’ (one of the other ‘legs’ on which Christianity ‘stands’) which would be what Scripture refers to as "the Holy Spirit who will lead you to all truth.

Not ‘has already led you in the Bible to all truth which is ONLY found explicitly in the Bible.’ Rather "WILL lead’ (future tense).

There is nothing in Scripture which contradicts the idea that some sins are ‘graver’ than others, some sins which ‘kill’ our relationship completely (murder, adultery, etc. as St. Paul notes which will ‘keep us from the kingdom of heaven’!) and some which are not so serious.

Usually understood as: Mortal sin…

The Seven Deadly sins…are not a list of mortal sins…though of course moral sins are there…

Of course one will find examples of mortal sins in various places…as for example where Paul refers to sins in regards to those who will not inherit the kingdom…

Yes. Have you read the Catechism? It’s a great resource to understand our faith and what the Church teaches. If you can’t afford to buy a copy of it, you can read it online for free at the Vatican website here.

Specifically, read this for the distinction between mortal and venial sin.

Basically it’s something the Church made up.

Could you explain why you feel this passage doesn’t make a distinction between certain types of sin that would be the basis for a classification? Or are you saying that you feel you would need more than one passage in order to believe that there is a distinction? If that is the case then I would be willing to search the Scriptures for more passages, or you could as well do this yourself. If you have a concordance you could find every instance of a particular word in the Bible. We as Cathollics have the Bible and we have Sacred Tradition. Have you read the Fathers? They often quote Scripture as well, because Scripture and Tradition do not contradict one another.

You are getting close to the practical aspect but not to the intellectual one. In truth the Holy Spirit makes it up when He inspires the Church, and that it is possible because Jesus gave permission to the apostles to do so. In order words the Church is following the instructions given. God started to give instructions even before the Church was established.

The idea of a relative gradation of sin is clearly stated by Jesus himself.

*But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, “You fool!” shall be liable to the Hell of fire. (Matthew 5:22, NRSV-CE)*Notice that while the first two sins leave one open to God’s judgement, the third type of sin immediately opens one up to being sent to Hell.

*If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. (1 John 5:16-17)*Jesus’ best firend, as another poster has pointed out, speaks clearly about two types of sin - deadly and non-deadly. Deadly and non-deadly sin here in the Bible is exactly consistent Catholic teaching about moral and venial sin. Venial sin does not kill our spiritual life (non-deadly) because it does not break God’s covenant. Venial sin is also humanly repairable (he should pray to God and he will give him life). Mortal sin however, robs us of sanctifying grace and kills us spiritually because it breaks God’s covenant and for this we require God’s mercy and forgiveness which is ordinarly obtained through the sacrament of reconcillation.

*But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)*Remember that John also wrote the Book of Revelation. Here he lists grave mortal sins and tells us that the they lead to our “Second death”, our spiritual death (after our physical death). The loss of of sactifying grace caused by our breaking of God’s covenant leaves us “liable to the hell of fire” just like Jesus taught.

There are other verses which back up the Catholic doctrines of mortal and venial sin but these three suffice to show how the ideas of mortal and venial sin are 100% consistent with and based upon Scripture, including Jesus own teaching.


It goes back to Jesus, who said that if someone knows the Father’s will and does not do it, he will be beaten severely, but if someone does not know the Father’s will, and does what deserves a beating, he will be beaten lightly. Luke 12:47-48 - “That servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating.”

The different punishments show the different degrees of sin. The severe beating is in hell, caused by mortal sins, and the lighter beating is purgatory, caused by venial sins.

The Apostles picked up on this. In 1 John 5:16-17, St. John says: “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.”

“There is sin which is mortal.” If that doesn’t prove the existence of mortal sin, then I don’t know what does!

The part about not praying for mortal sin committers is difficult, but there are good explanations. The best one I have seen is best encapsulated by Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, which is (incidentally) a very non-Catholic, very Protestant commentary. It explains the meaning roughly this way: we should not pray that someone who is in mortal sin should, while he is still in mortal sin, be forgiven. Instead, we should ask God to give him the grace to repent. Forgiveness of mortal sins comes when they are repented of, so we can pray for that, but it would be presumptuous to think our prayers are powerful enough to resurrect a spiritually dead soul without him accepting the healing, since only God has the power to resurrect.

Another example of the distinction between mortal/venial sin is in James 1:14-15. “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”

“Full-grown [sin] brings forth death,” but not “smaller” sin. That proves that there are “smaller” sins and “greater” sins. “Mortal” sins and “venial” sins. Mortal or “full-grown” sins will kill your spiritual life, but “smaller” sins won’t.

I hope that helps. God bless!
-Dan Marcum

Hello, friend. You refer to yourself as an ex-Catholic, and I would imagine that you came here to debate points. If that is the case then I would imagine you are more interested in challenging a position than in making an inquiry. My participation in this thread was an attempt to answer a question and not defend a position. However, the position can be defended. I would suggest posting a new thread in the appropriate place if you are looking for debate. Many regulars posting here would be more than happy to answer your questions/address your concerns. Furthermore, have you seen the folder Ask an Apologist? You could certainly voice your doubts/questions there if you are truly looking for an answer. Sadly, I find that some people can sometimes waste more time trying to start an argument than to search for a resolution to a doubt they might have, of course, not implying that you are doing any such thing. I find that friendship is a prerequisite to such discussions, as the written word does not always convey the love and mutual respect that two people discussing such a point should and would certainly have for one another.
I would be more than happy to give you as much of my time as necessary, as I too was once an “ex-Catholic” for many years, and it’s possible that I might have had similar experiences/thoughts/quandaries.

Thanks for the references. It’s always good to have a handle on things. The area of morality is not one which I’ve spent a large amount of time studying all the theology.

Of course you have the ‘proof’ to back this up, right? It’s absolutely something that the Church ‘made up’ out of whole cloth. Nothing whatsoever to do with Christ, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, sacred tradition. . .just some kind of ‘scam’. . .:rolleyes:


I didn’t say it was a scam; I’m not judging the Church’s intentions. But yes, unless you can show exactly how and when Christ or the Holy Spirit told the Church which sins are mortal and which are venial, then I must conclude that the Church created the list on its own.

Indeed the Church Christ instituted was given that revelation !

God Bless

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